A wide variety of natural organisms in our environment is vital for both nature and agriculture. However, in the last decades, this variety has declined as a result of soil degradation in many regions. What is the connection between soil and biodiversity and what does Triodos require from companies to increase biodiversity?

Rich soils contain many important living organisms, such as small insects, worms, fungi and bacteria and support a diversified vegetation. This diversified vegetation, in turn, attracts many different animals because it provides them food and shelter. The various organisms in the soil provide good conditions for agriculture and nature, because they release minerals into crops, help provide water to root systems, and prevent and combat pests as they house natural enemies. 

The world’s increased demand for food and other products that rely on the use of land have put pressure on soils, on nature and on biodiversity. Once the soil has degraded or disappeared through erosion, biodiversity is at risk, leading to drops in crop yields, less attractive nature and a decrease in natural resistance. Soil protection and management are therefore crucial. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, soils host a quarter of the planet’s total biodiversity. It should therefore be no surprise that Triodos closely monitors companies operating in industries that could damage and erode soils.

Assessing high-risk companies

Large-scale industrial activities, agriculture, deforestation, and mining are industries at risk of creating adverse impact, because of the large surfaces they require and the large quantities of (harmful) substances they emit. Triodos requires companies in these industries to implement precautionary measures, such as environmental management systems and soil remediation programmes when sites have been abandoned. We reject producers of pesticides, because chemicals not only kill the pests, but also the useful organisms in soil, water and air. Companies involved in paper and wood production are required to have certification schemes that guarantee soil preservation, and must have programmes on biodiversity impact reduction and report on their progress.

Leading the way – Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget

Swedish company Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget (SCA) manufactures tissues, toilet paper, publishing paper and packaging paper. The company is Europe’s largest private forest owner with 2.6 million hectares. Two million hectares are used for timber production, and 0.6 million hectares (of less productive forest) are maintained as a habitat for flora and fauna. Of its productive forests, almost seven per cent has been placed under ecological landscape plans to promote biodiversity. The company’s biodiversity programme prescribes that more than one in every ten trees is to be left in the ground to die from natural causes. These standing trees – and in time, fallen trees – are critical because they constitute a refuge for care-demanding species and they bring the natural qualities of the old forest into the new, growing replacement forest. Controlled fires are also used to re-create natural qualities of burned trees that are attractive, even necessary, for some species. All of SCA’S forests are FSC-certified and the company is working towards only sourcing FSC-certified raw materials from its suppliers.

The link between soil and biodiversity is clear. We continue to encourage companies to improve their soil and biodiversity management and promote companies such as SCA as best practice examples.

Note: The issues explored in this article are relevant for sustainable investments on the stock market. Triodos Bank believes that our socially responsible investments are a powerful means of promoting our values and working for greater sustainability, while enabling us to offer a complete range of attractive investment options to customers who choose to invest on the stock market.